MI Lawmaker to File Hiring-Firing Limits Bill

May 2, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Michigan employers would be barred from making hiring or firing decisions based on what candidates do in their private time under state legislation expected to be introduced Tuesday.

The proposal would specifically prohibit employers from basing employment decisions on credit history, gun ownership, political affiliation, body type, health, smoking or eating habits, and other factors, according to an Associated Press report.

The legislation is designed to broaden a bill introduced a year ago in response to four workers losing their jobs at one Michigan business because they did not quit smoking outside of work.Weyco Inc., a health benefits administrator, instituted a policy that makes it a firing offense to smoke – even off the company’s premises on employees’ own time. The policy had been announced in late 2003. (See  Lawyers Smolder over MI Firm’s No-Smoking Policy ).

The 2005 bill – which would bar employment decisions based on off-duty conduct – has both Democratic and some Republican co-sponsors, but has not gotten a hearing or vote in the GOP-controlled Senate. “It’s inappropriate to threaten someone with firing in order to tell you how to live your life,” Senator Gretchen Whitmer said at a Monday news conference announcing the bills, according to the news report.

Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, said he wants to find out if there’s a legitimate problem that should be addressed. Sikkema also is concerned the legislation could send an unfriendly message to job providers at a time the state is struggling economically, the news report said.

The new bills would expand prohibitions to include not just decisions based on off-duty conduct but also a worker’s status or circumstance – such as being a single mother or having a bad credit report.

While lawmakers and other supporters said they could not provide exact numbers on the extent of the problem, someMichigan plaintiffs’ lawyers said they get dozens of complaints a week.

Michigan ‘s civil rights law already prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, height, weight or marital status.